Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Over the Water and Through the Woods to Perth

03-05-09 Sunday

After a delicious full Scottish breakfast in the dining room (and having our first taste of black pudding), it is time to start saying farewell to Portree. The air is fresh from the rains of the evening before as we walk back down the hill towards town. The sunlight shimmers on the harbor waters in the distance, the countryside around us is vibrant in hues of green, the azure sky is only slightly marred by wandering clouds, and we revel in the true beauty of this wonderful isle.

The walk down the road is pleasant and, once we arrive in the town square, we discover two things; the first is that very little is open since it is a Sunday (there goes my souvenir shopping) and two, the breeze has started to pick up and our light jackets are barely keeping the chill at bay.


Nonetheless, before we leave sleepy Portree, we find ourselves walking back towards the harbor as the water draws us down the cement steps and to the dock. We spend a few moments looking out at the fishing boats tethered to their brightly-colored buoys while the wind and waves gently wake them in the morning light, and then it’s up the steps we go again and we are once more in the town square.

Looking at the upward climb towards the Marmalade, CG gallantly offers to get the car (I suspect he knows he will make much better time on the ascent without me) and off he goes while I pace the asphalt block of car park trying to stay warm and admire the rugged buildings that surround it. Soon, the Volvo appears and I hop in, eager to be out of the wind and back on the road to our next adventure. Farewell Portree!

The stark terrain this morning isn’t shrouded in clouds like the day before, and we are privy to the eerie paleness of the magnificent hills as we wind our way to the southern tip of the island. The landscape eventually changes to a greener temperament as we get closer to the southern end of Skye. We follow the signs to the ferry and are directed to pull into the line of cars and motorcycles waiting to board.

Soon, the ferry can be seen approaching the shore and, after a profusion of cars disembark, we drive aboard and are parked (nay, squeezed) onto the parking level. Everyone heads upstairs to stake out their claims (i.e. seats) and CG and I find the line for a nip of coffee. Afterwards, wondering if the crowded inner deck is any indication to our sensibilities, we somewhat brazenly head outside to the front deck to join a group of German motorcyclists. With the chill wind in our faces, we all watch the Isle of Skye disappear behind us and mainland Scotland greet us as we near Mallaig, and we are all exhilarated by the blue-grey openness of the sky and sea.

After disembarking onto the dock at Maillag, we are back on four wheels and on our way again. We are traveling through the central part of Scotland now, bordered on one side by the green Highland hills and on the other by an abundance of trees and rolling fields. The road switches back and forth through the cuts and hollows, and I feel a slight sense of vertigo, as if we are riding in the trough of a temperamental emerald sea, storm tossed and beautiful. I gaze at the skies out my window and watch the clouds shifting towards us – it looks like more rain for us today!

After passing a surprising amount of caravans (it is Sunday…), I talk CG into stopping in Fort William at a store where I had the pleasure of shopping years ago. CG and I wander amongst the woolens in their greens, reds and a smattering of yellows, as well as various “thistled” items, amber-liquid filled bottles, cookies, DVDs, and music CDs. With gifts in mind, I choose several items to take home with me and we escape, a little lighter in the pocketbook and a little heavier in the suitcase. It is getting to be late afternoon and we still have miles to go!

Glen Coe

We do stop at Glen Coe to stretch our legs and take a quick hike amongst the green hills and heather of the highlands. While at the gift shop and choosing even more gifts for home, we learn that the Harry Potter movies (among others) have been filmed nearby and CG selects a Hogwart’s train item for AL. After a quick pause on the side of the road and a muddy hike, I snap a picture for AM and R, and we are back in the car where we are soon descending into the lowlands of Scotland.

Glen Coe

The town center of Perth lays below us, perched precariously on the River Tay, a hybrid of ancient and new. Rush hour traffic, road cones and detours divert our path to our destination but we finally rumble over the cobblestones of W. Mill Street and find a parking spot for the Volvo.

The Ramada Jarvis, muted in the clouded twilight, looks delightful and we cross the street to check in. Once a 15th century water-mill and renovated into a hotel, the ceilings are low, the ambiance is cozy and, with the water-wheel still in place over a creek under a glass trapdoor, I am instantly entranced with our lodging for the next two evenings. We deposit our bags on the floor of the very spacious room and then throw ourselves onto the king-size bed.

Hunger soon invades our television exploration so we grab our jackets and head back outside. We deftly slip by a large group of men ensconced inside the hotel’s pub thoroughly enjoying their libations, and then again around the herd of motorcycles now parked in front of the main door. Walking towards the town center, we spot a narrow little Italian bistro on the opposite side of N. Methvan Street (the nearest busy street off the cobbled Mill Street). Dodging traffic, we quickly duck in the door to sate the groans of our appetites.

We soon agree that we have found a gem in this busy little corner of the city and, since it isn’t listed on our tour notes, I make a note to myself to share this with P when we meet him tomorrow. CG orders steak and mushroom pie and I have the pasta, and we share a litre of Chianti while we enjoy the calmness of this little cafe. Mentally licking our fingers afterwards from the delicious food, we stroll back to our hotel and curl up in bed. Another adventurous day is behind us and a new one beckons tomorrow!

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